HARTLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — It is a place where thousands of families go every year to celebrate fall. Now, Spicer Orchards at U.S. 23 and Clyde Road in Hartland is dealing with a crime like no other in its more than 50-year history. Who stole more than 22,000 apples off acres of trees under the cover of darkness?
After running the orchard for more than 50 years, the Spicer family has learned that you only pick apples when they are perfectly ripe. As harvest time nears, they check the apples every few days.
On Sunday, October 6, the apples in the farm’s supplemental orchard on Silver Lake Road in Linden were not quite yet ripe. Then, on Wednesday, October 9, they checked again.
“There was nothing there,” said Ryan Spicer, the grandson of Alan Spicer, the farm’s founder.
“We were predicting about 7,000 pounds of apples to be harvested over the next week period,” said Matthew Spicer, the son of the farm’s founder.
Ryan Spicer says his grandpa called the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department. They are investigating who took an estimated 22,000 apples worth as much as $14,400.
Since neighbors didn’t see anything, they believe someone harvested the crop in the middle of the night.
“It would have had to be three or four trucks,” said Matthew.
“At least a crew of nine,” added Ryan.
“It would have to be somebody who would not have to distinguish between ripe and not ripe apples. Because they took them both,” said Matthew.
They know they were not eaten by deer, as there are no apples knocked on the ground. The orchard was methodically cleaned out by hand.
Spicer Orchards, which was founded in 1968, has never experienced a theft like this, but it is not the only farm recently targeted. Someone stole about 400 pumpkins from MacCallum’s Orchard in St Clair County’s Grant Township. Plus someone stole about 50,000 apples from Williams Orchard in Indiana last month.
Investigators are not sure there is any link.
“Think about how much time and effort that farmer puts into his crop, and when he doesn’t have a crop, how many times does that have to happen then he cant do what he does,” said Ryan.
“It takes us all year to grow apples and every single one of them is very important to us,” said Matthew.
Spicer Orchards has installed trail cameras in its orchards to try to deter more thefts.